Learn How to Protect Yourself This Burn Awareness Week
The American Burn Association hosts National Burn Awareness Week each February to help educate Americans in the hopes of spurring preventative measures. This year’s theme is contact burns—injuries caused by touching hot items of surfaces. At home, most families’ biggest worry is usually kitchen appliances—which children should be kept away from to reduce risk. At work, the typical burn injury has a very different profile and therefore must be prevented through other means.
Evaluating Burn Hazard in the Workplace
Studies of burn injury victims rely on hospital data, and due to the variation in reports researchers have not managed to assess the number of burn victims who end up in treatment after a workplace accident. However, a long-term survey found that burns are very common on the job. They account for 2 of every 5 occupational injuries. Evidence also suggests work-related burns are more serious, as employees make up a larger percentage of hospital burn victims than those injured in other accidents. The majority of burns happen in a few hazardous industries, but any worker is susceptible to them. Fires, explosions, and electrical accidents can cause serious injuries to anyone onsite.
Workers who are around hot items and/or work with large machinery are at the highest risk. The industries responsible for the highest percentage of burns are:
- Accommodation and food services
As you may guess, employees in these fields face very different types of hazards. In accommodation and food services, scald burns (caused by hot liquids) are most common; among construction workers, nearly half of the reported burns are due to radiation (caused by welding).
Other studies of occupational burn injuries have identified electrical companies, automotive repair shops, and jobs that involve driving and therefore put workers at risk for car accidents.
What Causes Contact Burns?
Heavy machinery is at the center of many workplace contact burns. Employees tasked with heating, cooling, or cleaning equipment are likely to sustain damage to their:
- Hands and fingers
- Lower arm and wrist
These burns can be particularly painful and difficult to treat. They may scar over in ways that restrict movement and agility and/or cause disfigurement.
Preventing Contact Burns in the Workplace
Much of the onus of protecting employees from burn injuries rests with employers or third parties. Individual mistakes can cause accidents that result in severe burns, but an employee’s actions are often the result of an unsafe work environment.
What Employers Can Do
In industries with high numbers or risk of burn injuries, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends regularly evaluating burn hazards and mitigating them. Providing personal protective equipment (PPE) can also help keep employees safe. However, it’s more effective to keep employees far away from hazardous heat.
Many workplace accidents happen because safety guidelines are set and not followed. Employees should all undergo comprehensive training; Those newer to the job might need extra support or safeguards until they are comfortable around dangerously hot items. Managers must also observe workplace processes and discipline workers who do not comply. Safe practices may take extra time, so employers should make sure production goals and processes make room for burn prevention.
What Manufacturers Can Do
The companies that design and make large machinery also has a hand in preventing burns. A few design tweaks can help workers stay safe. They include:
- Using nonconductors on parts of the machine that workers are likely to come into contact with
- Positioning heat-generating elements far away from controls or other points of interaction
- Conducting tests with unfamiliar parties and watching for unexpected uses or operating techniques that may be dangerous
- Providing proper warnings that are accurate and easily legible
- Suggesting the use of PPE if there is a burn risk
Help Keep Your Workplace Burn Free
We appreciate the hard work the American Burn Association does to educate the public, as well as their support for the burn research and victim communities. Take action with us this week by thinking about the steps that could keep you and your coworkers safe from burns. Recovering from these injuries can take weeks if not months, and studies have found that the victims of workplace burns are more likely to leave their job or need accommodations to help them return after an accident.
Anyone who sustains a serious burn injury because of an accident deserves help. The physical and emotional costs of these injuries are great. If you or someone you love has been burned, we might be able to help you bring a case for compensation and to improve the safety of others.
Call Rosenberg & Rosenberg, P.A. at (888) 499-6206 or reach out online to speak with our burn injury lawyers.